Scandinavia Travel Records Tumble As Tourists Head North


In much of Europe, summer 2023 will be remembered as a season of bad news for the travel industry. Wildfires have brought a new kind of danger to many southern resorts already suffering from a heatwave, forcing the British government amongst others to issue travel warnings at the height of the summer vacation period.

Before the heatwave began, British budget airline Easyjet canceled 1,700 European flights for the summer period, which affected the travel plans of approximately 180,000 people.

However, travel news farther north is much more positive. Norway and Denmark have both reported various tourism records, driven by Europeans choosing to travel to a relatively cooler region together with an increase in domestic tourism.

A boom summer for Norway

In Norway, there have never been more cruise ship calls planned in a single year, while there are record numbers of motorhomes on the roads, especially in Northern Norway. But while the travel industry is welcoming the boost especially after the dip between 2020 and 2022, the record numbers are bringing a set of new problems.

Norway’s famous trail to the iconic Preikestolen (also known as Pulpit Rock) has drawn more hikers than ever before, creating pressure on parking and restroom facilities. It has become the poster child in the Norwegian media for the emerging debate between upholding Norway’s ‘right to roam’ law and the need to limit tourism to protect the natural environment.

As the impending ban on cruise ships in some of Norway’s most picturesque fjords looms, it is hardly surprising that this summer has seen a surge in cruise calls to Norway. Norway is on track to receive a total of 3,389 cruise calls in 2023, up 20% on 2019, the last year considered ‘normal’ for global travel.

Both cruise visitors and the high number of motorhomes on the roads are causing issues for locals in Oslo, the fjord region, and Northern Norway. The Lofoten region is set to introduce a tourist tax to help fund new facilities for tourists, while Oslo city officials who have already relocated cruise ships this summer are now moving to ban motorhomes from some parking lots.

International interest in Denmark

In Denmark, hotels are reporting a new record of overnight stays throughout the country, while in Sweden, one academic believes similar trends will come to Sweden.

In 2022, Denmark’s hotels enjoyed a record 19 million overnight stays, but official analysis projects the 2023 total to surpass that by as much as 4%. Most of this increase is driven by international visitors, in particular holiday rentals by those visiting from Germany and the Netherlands.

Copenhagen Airport has also reported record numbers. Earlier in the year the airport set a new single day record for visitors, while management has geared up operations to handle an estimated 7.5 million passengers in June, July, and August.

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